Today is Nicole's query again, but this time with my feedback, in red.
Princess Cassandra never wants for anything, unlike her commoner friends Kylie and Vance who have to slave on their family's farm when they aren't off exploring with the reckless ten-year-old.
What this hook does, better than most hooks I read, is set up Cassandra as both a character, and a person in a situation. I want all my readers to learn from Nicole here, because if you focus on the word reckless, you'll realize just how much characterization one little word can provide. One more word is often all you need in a query.
Now, if I was to nit-pick this hook, which I will, even though it's good, because that's the point of a critique, I would say that it lacks the kind of punch that leaves the wind knocked out of you, and leaves you no choice but to read on. I think it's lacking because there's no inciting incident here. We do kind of get that incident early in the next paragraph, but I think the opening hook would contain more power if the introduction of the character(s) was combined with that inciting incident.
When Vance becomes lame during the trio's latest misadventure, I'm not sure what others may think, but I've always thought of lame as referring to an animal, and cripple as referring to a person. But then cripple can also be considered offensive. I think the main problem here, is the passive voice. Can you just get specific and say he falls and breaks his leg (or whatever)? Cassandra figures the royal healers can help him. If only her parents didn't pick now to teach her a lesson about shirking her royal duties to run off with her friends! As Cassandra searches for a way to pay the healers, she stumbles upon a dying which Witch? with a treasure map. The princess I get why you couldn't use a pronoun here, but can't you just say Cassandra? steals a horse (although is it really stealing when she plans on returning it?) and the trio sets off on a treasure hunt. With lame Vance in tow? How?
After a monstrous hailstorm critically injures Vance, I thought he was already lame? Or is this the same incident you were referring to early? You need to clarify. Cassandra sends him home with his sister. Forced to bargain with a cranky centaur and outrun a hungry bear-dog without them, Off topic, but has anyone seen the first episode of the new season of Avatar: the Last Airbender: the Legend of Korra? So awesome. And it has a bear-dog named Naga in it. Sorry. Cassandra continues their quest with the help of her "stolen" horse and a baby griffin she meets along the way. But she isn't the only one on the hunt. An evil sorcerer also seeks the treasure and will stop at nothing to get it. Worse, if she doesn't find the treasure soon, this adventure will be Vance's last. Why? I thought Vance already got sent home with Kylie? Is the treasure somehow able to save him from his critical injury?
Okay, so this second paragraph is mostly just really awesome. The fantasy elements you bring in sound like so much fun, and perfect for a MG novel. You just need to clarify a few confusing points, and it would be nice to see you sum this all up in a way that defines a high stakes choice Cassandra must make.
THE PRINCESS'S TREASURE HUNT is a 31,000-word MG fantasy novel with series potential. Perfect.
I am the author of a fantasy romance trilogy, Kingdom of Arnhem - Woman of Honor (2009), Knight of Glory (2010), and Champion of Valor (2011) published with Desert Breeze Publishing. Fifteen of my short works have appeared in various anthologies, including Mertales by Wyvern Publications, and many collections by Pill Hill Press. I believe the titles should be italicized here. The titles of these three novels, and the title of the anthology. Previously published works are usually italicized in query letters. Otherwise, this is also perfect.
(Personalization tidbit) Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Okay, so to summarize: the hardest query letters to critique are the ones that are already good. Nicole has done this before, so her query was already in great shape. Personally, I think this query would probably work well as is. This story reminds me of the tone of Anna Stanizewski's My Very Un-Fairytale Life in that it sounds really hilarious, and fun for kids. I bet some agents would request on the premise alone.
That being said, there are definitely some things that can be improved. I'd like Vance's injury to be worked into the hook, as an inciting incident that provides some tension right away. Then I would like some clarification on whether there is a second injury, what it is, and whether it is life threatening (because it seems to be). Finally, I want a final sentence that summarizes how high the stakes have risen, and the difficult choice Cassandra must make to overcome the conflict.
What do you all think? Am I trippin?